By Grant Stoner | The Duquesne Duke
As a young child, the battles within the Pokémon television shows always fascinated me. While I thoroughly enjoyed the traditional turn-based combat in the games, the intense and fast-paced action was captivating. I would wonder as to why the games couldn’t treat duels in a similar manner. With “Pokken Tournament,” the awe-inspiring confrontations are no longer confined to the shows.
Developed by Bandai Namco, creators of the “Tekken” series, “Pokken Tournament” brings the fighting genre to the Pokémon universe. By placing two combatants into an arena, gamers can view the true fighting potential of the so-called “Pocket Monsters.” Even though Pokémon have been featured in fighting games before, namely the “Super Smash Bros.” series, this game is the first of its kind, allowing players to create their own memorable battles, just like Ash Ketchum.
Set in the “Ferrum Region,” “Pokken Tournament” offers 19 beautifully designed stages, each accompanied by their own musical score. From the underwater-themed “Blue Dome,” to the mountaintop setting of “Dragon’s Nest,” the excitement of the battles is only complimented by the extravagant landscapes.
With over 721 Pokémon, and 19 maps, the possibilities for fights are endless. Yet, “Pokken Tournament” only provides 16 playable characters, four of which are the same creatures, albeit with unique move-sets. Even though Pikachu is the mascot of the franchise, he certainly doesn’t deserve to be featured twice, regardless of his luchador outfit. Also included are 30 support Pokémon: non-playable monsters which activate a signature move, helping to turn the tide of battles. What’s perplexing is that the Pokémon universe is full of a plethora of imaginative and powerful monsters, which begs the question as to why certain Pokémon are omitted from the game. What led developers to choose Braixen over Hitmonchan, or Chandelure over Tyranitar?
Despite the relatively small roster, “Pokken Tournament” truly shines as one of the most accessible fighting games to date. Whether you’re a newcomer or a player who is familiar with the genre, this title lets gamers jump right into the fray. Beginners will be able to easily execute predetermined combos, while experienced players can create their own, allowing them to develop a unique and creative twist to their favorite characters moves.
Unlike traditional fighting games where battles are played within either a 3-D or 2-D space, “Pokken Tournament” combines them both into a seamless gaming experience. When matches begin, players start in the 3-D “Field Phase,” where projectile-based and homing attacks are utilized to harm the other Pokemon. After enough damage has been dealt, the fights transition into the 2-D “Duel Phase,” where combos featuring light, heavy and special attacks can be executed until the phases are switched again. This not only provides an interesting twist into an old style, but grants numerous opportunities for players to escape from otherwise game-ending combos.
The game also utilizes multiple modes, allowing you to hone your skills before dueling with other people. A traditional ladder-based campaign called the “Ferrum League” is offered, pitting gamers against an increasingly difficult set before ultimately culminating in a final boss encounter. After earning the rank of champion in the rather brief, yet enjoyable story, players can enter the “Practice” mode for a warm-up or set their own rules against computer-controlled opponents in “Single Battle.”
“Pokken Tournament” never loses its identity, nor appeal, even after countless hours spent with the same characters and levels. As a fighting game, “Pokken Tournament” has the capability to hold its own, even against juggernauts such as “Mortal Kombat” and “Street Fighter.” As a Pokemon title, fans can expect to recognize the quirks and charms which have made the franchise appealing for over 20 years. This game makes an excellent addition for any Wii U library.
“Pokken Tournament” launched on March 18 and costs $50.